Happy National Bison Day! Today is a celebration of the deep and fundamental role bison, our national mammal, plays in our history, cultures, and ecology. Not only do bison hold a special place in our hearts and our minds, but they are a keystone species that signals the health of our wildlife and wild places.

The National Wildlife Federation honors all the supporters and efforts that have gone into protecting bison and habitat across the United States. This week, the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountain Regional Center specifically honored Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper for their outstanding efforts in natural resource conservation and bison restoration. Their collective work in Denver and the State have set the bar for bison conservation and education in the West. With four public herds in Colorado’s Front Range – at Genesee Mountain Park, Daniel’s Park, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Soapstone Prairie Natural Area – and efforts to make bison, our national mammal, accessible to millions of Coloradans and others visiting the state, their support brings much-needed awareness to the future of these majestic creatures and the habitat and resources they need to survive. Bringing a species back from the brink of extinction to the forefront of people’s minds is a testament to their leadership and commitment to conservation.

Colorado National Bison Day Celebration (Bob Randall, Happy Haines, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Brian Kurzel, Arturo Garcia, and Garrit Voggesser).  (Photo By Judi Kohler)

Just two weeks ago, in a related effort by the National Wildlife Federation and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, ten buffalo from the National Bison Range in Montana became the second group of animals to be released on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. This recent release follows the restoration of ten buffalo to Wind River on November 3, 2016 and the birth of their first calf on May 3, 2017, 6 months to the day after buffalo first returned to the area after an absence of more than 130 years. “After 1885, there were no more buffalo left for the Eastern Shoshone. In the last year, we have restored twenty-one buffalo to our lands after more than 130 years of absence,” explains Jason Baldes, Buffalo Representative for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. “The return of buffalo has been a momentous occasion and a very fitting reminder of the animals’ importance to our people as we commemorate National Bison Day.”

Bison on the Wind River Reservation. Photo by Alexis Bonogofsky.

Just as bison are trail makers as a species – that benefit other wildlife, plants and human communities – we seek to blaze new trails in bison conservation. The return of bison to Wind River is the culmination of more than 40 years of collaboration by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and NWF’s Tribal Partnership Program in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Federation envisions establishing multiple new bison herds on tribal lands across the West, with the goal of thousands of bison on hundreds of thousands of acres.

Learn more about NWF’s bison restoration efforts with tribes. And, sign the petition to support restoring thousands of wild bison to millions of acres of native prairie habitat on tribal lands.